Mary in the Early Church
The Apostles and Mary in the midst of the first Christians is a major reference point for Marists.
These were times when the believers, in communion of mind and heart, gave powerful testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus. This is an image of the church: all the believers from the beginning till now gathered around the Apostles and Mary and all living in unity.
We can think of Mary in this group of believers at the beginning: with her faith and wisdom she had much to contribute to the life of the church, but in an unobtrusive manner.
Mary at Nazareth
Nazareth is another point of reference in Mary’s life and in the life of the first Marists. Nazareth is the place where in-a-sense Marist’s go in spirit and from there they are able to see things as Mary sees them.
At Nazareth, Mary pondered and stored up in her heart, the events of the life of Jesus.
It’s easy to be caught in the events of our own lives, to be so unreflective that we risk being caught in our own interests and motives. The pace of modern living sometimes makes the business of life “a given”.
For Marists, Nazareth is the place where slowly, silently, unobtrusively Jesus grew in wisdom and inner strength. It is the place where we too can learn the wisdom that comes from within. Nazareth is also an approach to life which help Marists ‘ponders the things of God’ and treasures them in our heart. It is a place of the heart: a place of gentle silence and faith. It is a place of growth.
The Three Marist No’s
The three Marist “no’s” are essential elements of the Marist life. They are
- no to greed
- no to pride
- no to power.
Poverty, the lack of personal power and the absence of self-worth are not Gospel values, but the desire for money, power and personal aggrandisement can, albeit subtly enter our lives and stunt us as fully alive human beings. Just as poverty can cripple, so can excessive wealth. Similarly no one really likes a bully.
Greed, power and pride limit the effectiveness of those who wish to present the Gospel of Jesus. Marists are invited to follow in Mary’s footsteps keeping their eyes fixed on God alone and on the kingdom, resisting the crippling forces of greed, power and pride so as to develop an inner freedom, and in the manner of Mary, build a Christian community which has Mary’s face.
Hidden and Unknown
The phrase “hidden and unknown” is part of the fabric of what it means to be a Marist, it gives inspiration to Marists and is a type of motto.
For Marists, being more or less “hidden and unknown” in the world, is a call to simple, modest and humble action. The focus on the task rather than who is doing it. An example may help further explain.
Once when Arturo Toscanini was preparing his orchestra to play one of Beethoven’s symphonies, he said, “Gentlemen, I am nothing; you are nothing; Beethoven is everything.” He knew his main task was to sink himself, and his orchestra, and let the music of Beethoven flow through.
A Marist, in a certain sense, is like the person in a prompt box. What matters is the stage where you have the actors playing the drama, and yet you also have someone that nobody sees and nobody knows, in the prompt box. The prompt is there only to suggest at the last moment if the actor does not remember, or does not say what they are supposed to have said. The person in the prompt box makes the dialogue easier, but nobody looks at him or her, and if they were to venture onto the stage themselves, they would spoil the drama.
For Fr Colin, the founder of the Society of Mary, being, “hidden and unknown” was the only way to do good.
In a culture of achievement, productivity and competition, compassion might seem to be a bit of a non-starter.
Yet we read in the Scriptures. “When he had finished washing their feet, he put his outer clothes on again and went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you?'” (John 13.)
Compassion, like love, longs for some real expression. It is by our compassionate service that people will see we are Jesus’ disciples and experience his love. On their own, veils, clerical collars, or statues to the Virgin have no meaning.
John Paul II forgives his attempted assassin
Under the headline, “Why Forgive?”, Time Magazine reported the historic meeting of Pope John Paul II and his would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca in a Roman prison: “For 21 minutes, the Pope sat with his would-be assassin. The two talked softly. Once or twice Agca laughed. At the end of the meeting, Agca either kissed the Pope’s ring, or pressed the Pope’s hand to his forehead in a Muslim gesture of respect. John Paul’s words were intended for Agca alone. ‘What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.’ It was a startling drama of forgiveness and reconciliation. On one level, it was an intensely intimate conversation between two men. But if the Pope spoke in whispers, he also meant to proclaim a message to the world. The Pope’s deed spoke, not his words, and it spoke with full authority.”
Compassion has many expressions: action, word, song. The expressions may vary, but compassion doesn’t.
In all their works, Marists are to be wholly compassionate and understanding towards human frailty.” (Constitution 137.)